Pack of Lies -- There are falsehoods aplenty in this play by Hugh Whitemore. Based on a real spy case in 1960s Britain, it traces the story of Barbara and Bob Jackson, simple London suburbanites who are suddenly thrust into a cold-war espionage dust-up. The intrigue involves their best friends and neighbors of five years, Helen and Peter Kroger, who, unbeknown to the Jacksons, are KGB agents. In the first act, the playwright fashions a credible friendship between the Jacksons and the Krogers, who claim to be from Canada. Helen Kroger, boisterous and effusive, is the flip side of placidly passive Barbara, but it's easy to see how the two could forge a bond of trust and confidentiality. But that connection is ripped asunder when Stewart, a Brit intelligence officer, arrives to set up a stakeout in the Jacksons' house, where he and his minions can spy on the spies across the street. By intercutting dialogue scenes with mini-soliloquies from various characters, Whitemore creates a fascinating portrait of a quiet, predictable life gone horribly wrong. Director Greg Cesear brings beautifully modulated performances out of his talented cast. This subtle play goes beyond its international-spy-thriller trappings to ask a profound question: Is real friendship based on truth or appearances? And are we better off not knowing? Presented by Cesear's Forum through December 9 at Kennedy's Down Under, 1518 Euclid Ave., 216-241-6000. -- Howey
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